NCIS makes third spinoff attempt amid mixed results

NCIS is has been one of the more popular shows on network television over the past decade, but attempts on the part of CBS at expanding the fictional show’s universe have been met with mixed success. The latest attempt, starring Scott Bakula and based in New Orleans, concluded its attempt at a two part backdoor pilot last night.

Bakula’s laid back and informal character Dwayne Cassius “King” Pride has been worked in as an old friend and colleague of franchise honcho Leroy Gibbs, aimed at getting the existing NCIS audience to accept him based on the fact that their beloved characters all know and like him already. Pride’s sidekick is about as opposite as Gibbs sidekick Tony DiZonno as possible: he’s ultra serious, doesn’t smile, and speaks with a purposeful southern accent conveying old school discipline. The pair are rounded out by supporting characters who may or may not make it into the actual series. And that’s if the series even happens.

The first attempt at an NCIS spinoff, based in Los Angeles, was picked up and has gone on to score popular ratings for the past five years. But it’s still not clear how many viewers of NCIS: LA would be tuning in if not for the fact that it airs directly after the original series. And the show went through numerous supporting cast changes early on before finding its chemistry.

Last year’s attempt at a spinoff set in a roving mobile lab called “Red” predictably didn’t get picked up as a series; its characters each felt like derivatives of existing characters on other televison networks.

This time around may be different. Bakula instantly evokes nostalgia among those old enough to recall Quantum Leap. Fans of the Star Trek franchise are still divided when it comes to his star turn in the spinoff Enterprise, even as he attempts to helm another spinoff. Will the NCIS universe embrace King Pride more than Captain Archer? CBS will have to make a decision on whether to pick up the series first.